Trinity Sunday. Red, white and blue. Bacon, egg and cheese biscuit. And the greatest combination of all: Vizquel to Alomar to Thome.
We like to set things in threes. It comes naturally to us.
But this idea of a Trinitarian God has always been difficult for me. 3 Gods in One? One God, three parts? Who is the most important? To whom am I accountable? I do like the image on the front cover of the bulletin – please excuse the sexist language, but I think most of us first learned of the trinity this way and I wanted us to recall that original quandary.
The diagram really seemed to help me. Take a look at it.
• “The Father is God”
• “The Son is God”
• “The Holy Spirit is God”
• “God is the Father”
• “God is the Son”
• “God is the Holy Spirit”
• “The Father is not the Son”
• “The Son is not the Father”
• “The Father is not the Holy Spirit”
• “The Holy Spirit is not the Father”
• “The Son is not the Holy Spirit”
• “The Holy Spirit is not the Son”
Kind of reminds me of those logic questions on the SAT. If all cocklings are bogles, but not all bogles are grankers, are all coklings grankers?
This is not about logic though; this is about the overwhelming generosity of a giving God to manifest in various forms to increase the chance of relationship.
Let me repeat that: this is about the overwhelming generosity of a giving God to manifest in various forms to increase the chance of relationship.
The Confirmands got us started thinking about the Trinity last week in their statements of faith. I loved what each person wrote; Molly Webster is whom I’ll quote here. “God creates all beauty. Jesus is my teacher. And the Holy Spirit is God’s presence in the world.” Nice, right? Concise and to the point.
I don’t know about you, but my relationships – my connection — with each element of the Trinity seemed to wax and wane.
There was a time when the idea of parent God was the one I attached to. Someone who defined parameters and expectations.Then, for a while, Jesus popped in full force, Godspell Jesus. I was always afraid of “The Holy Ghost” as a child (who wouldn’t be?) Then I fell for a creator God, the one who provides bounty and beauty. Long stretches of no God in any form. Then Jesus as the innocent baby — God before cognition, God with human constraints. Jesus as rabbi, instructive with word and action. Finally, a dash of whooshing spirit, mixed with a smidgeon of God the Universalist. Sometimes they even come to me as duos: Jesus and spirit. God and Jesus. Spirit and Creator. You get my point. Right now, I seem to connect most powerfully to what I call the Holy Spirit.
Perhaps, instead of getting caught up in who is who and how they interact, we might just relax into the notion that we have the profound opportunity to know a God who has volume and dimension.
Just as we are not any one of the single attributes that may be attributed to us, the idea of a Trinitarian God expands what holy is. It adds body to what sacred can be. It provides possibilities, entrée points, and places of intersection.
I love what Jesus said in our text, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.”
A triune God tells us that we are given what we can understand when we can understand it. And how we can understand it.
There are things we simply cannot bear. Maybe because of their weight. Their sophistication, their complexity, their profound simplicity, their awkward shape or presentation. Who knows?
But, in an instant, something shifts. It has happened to you and it has happened to me. That click. That whack on the head, the ah-ha moment.
I had no idea what love was until I loved. Even though I thought I did.
I had no idea what death was until nuzzled up against true grief, though I thought I did.
I had no idea what joy was until I released myself from the bounds of fear, even though I was sure I knew.
One of the greatest gifts of aging is aging. Stacking experience onto experience and watching our own selves change and learn.
We are not fixed and static, and knowing that God is a) willing to show up at the right time and b) show up in a form that makes God accessible.
God is willing to be an idea. A savior. A breath. A flame. A rebel. A student. The creator. A rule maker. A vision. A voice. A wind. A burning bush. A tap on the shoulder. A miracle. A man.
Sometimes our minds are sparked, sometimes our hearts are shaken. Sometimes our souls are swayed. We never know how God will approach us, all we know is that God will speak to us in a way that we can understand as was promised last week on Pentecost Sunday.
So don’t be confused by the triune God. Just rest in the knowledge that God wants to be with you, that God will do anything it takes to be with you.
For me, especially following Pentecost, I lean into the Spirit. Truly, I think it’s my innate way. I have a nose for the spirit, the same way a dog can catch a whiff of chocolate from a block away.
I feel – I don’t know how else to say it without sounding like a hippie – I feel the spirit when meeting some new people, when singing a song, when letting the sun drape across my face, when meditating, when reading. I felt the Holy Spirit when I took my job, when I bought my house, when I signed up for Faith Leaders, when I spoke at Presbytery, when my grandmother was aging, when my mother was dying. I don’t know what it is, but suddenly and irrevocably, I have been filled with a knowing and a sense of direction. I feel the way to proceed; I know that I am being guided.
My favorite story about the collaborating spirit of God happened about fifteen years ago. I was trying to decide if I should attend the Kenyon Review Writers Workshop. I had been selected but was not sure if the hefty price would be worth it. I had never been to Gambier, never been to a writer’s workshop, never tested my writing skills in public and so, it was going to take a lot to convince me that I should go. Three hundred dollars a day was expensive back then, at least for me, so I had to take that into consideration too.
Well, I asked my writing teacher in Lakewood if I should go and she said “No way – that’s way too much money. Go to Iowa Summer writing program. It’s way cheaper.”
I left thinking “No, No Kenyon.” My mind was made up. But as I was driving out of the Beck Center onto Detroit Road, the SUV in front of me had – no joke – a Kenyon sticker. Purple, gold and white. I had never seen one before and there it was staring me in the face, right at eye-level.
I flipped to “yes.” “Yes Kenyon.” I was certain I should go. Then I went to the Giant Eagle down the street and got one bag of groceries that somehow totaled $30 and I thought, No way, I cannot go. It’s just too extravagantly costly. I do not have $1800 to waste on writing. Writing is free for God’s sake!”
But as I was backing out of my parking space, looking over my shoulder, I was reversing towards a big boat of a Buick that I was trying not to hit. And once again – no, I am not kidding – that car had a Kenyon sticker on it. I had never before seen a Kenyon sticker and in the span of fifteen minutes, I had seen two.
Then, like Peter, like Doubting Thomas, I actually said out loud, “Okay God I’ll need one more sign. One more sign from you.”
The next day, I went to the old Booksellers on Chagrin to get the Kenyon Review, the College’s literary journal. I stood in front of the journals section in the corner by the small café. A clerk walked up and asked if she could help. I explained that I wanted the Kenyon Review and she said that it was a quarterly and must have already sold out. Why, she asked, did I need that journal? I told her that I was thinking of going to a writer’s workshop there during the summer and I just needed to see the journal. She said, “Well, I’m a Kenyon alum” – no joke – “and I just received my alumni magazine and the only article I read last night was about the Writers Workshop and how great last summer’s classes were.”
I immediately went to my car and wrote out my deposit check. Mailed it it the next day. I know I don’t need to tell you this, but that time at Kenyon changed my life. Who I was a woman. As a writer. As a risk-taker.
I have no doubt that the spirit of something larger was pulling me toward my fate.
That is the sacred juncture in one’s life. Seeing the something bigger, trusting the something bigger. Having a keen and grateful eye to that which is larger and more loving to us than we will ever know how to be.
You can scoff. You can dismiss it, but I call it the Holy Spirit. I am willing to name it God. And, I tell you, when that kind of mysterious force shows up in my life, I follow.
You all know God as the creator, you all know God through Jesus, and you all know God from the sweet kiss of the spirit. This is the magnanimous gift of the Trinity. God in different forms so that, ultimately, we can do what God wants us to do most: Love the Lord God with all of our hearts, souls and minds.
Would we want God to be one thing?
Would we know God, had God not come to us in human form?
Would our lives be as tuned to God without the whispers of the spirit?
Which part of the triune God could we possible eliminate?
None of them.
So, hear God when God speaks to you. Listen to Jesus when he teaches you. Swallow the spirit when it swings by. Welcome God no matter how – no matter when. When God shows up, it’s the perfect time and God is the perfect God.
In the name of the Father,
and the Son,
and the Holy Spirit,
we give all thanks and praise.